“You want to know why I don’t like haunted houses?” Nick Miller (Jake Johnson) asks halfway through New Girl’s first Halloween episode, the aptly titled “Halloween.” New Girl’s heroine, Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel) stares back at Nick waiting for a response. She is as wide-eyed as ever, but, in a change from her uniform of fit and flare knee-length dresses, Jess looks like an especially hip (and masculine) 20-something zombie.
“Because they’re just like relationships,” Nick continues in his takedown of haunted houses. “You walk in all confident and then once you get in it’s not what you thought it was gonna be. It’s scary!”
The moment I saw this scene during a rewatch of the 2012 episode, I realized “Halloween” — the superior New Girl Halloween chapter to season 3’s “Keaton” — isn’t merely a silly celebration of our most spooky holiday. Instead, the installment predicts the entire future of New Girl — and the clues extend far beyond Nick’s perfectly explained commitment issues. Even two years after New Girl’s May 2018 ending, these surprises still feel like revelations for Netflix’s favorite hangout sitcom, which fans are turning to more than ever during the current frighteningly turbulent times.
Like many New Girl episodes, each “Halloween” plotline is based around the respective romantic dramas of the lofties. Jess realizes she has feelings for her previously sex-only hookup Doctor Sam (David Walton). Nick is both excited and terrified by a visit from his college crush Amelia (Maria Thayer). Schmidt (Max Greenfield) is desperate to win back the love of ex Cece Parekh (Hannah Simone), but she’s dating the genuinely sweet Robby (Nelson Franklin). Winston Bishop (Lamorne Morris) isn’t having sex with his girlfriend Shelby (Kali Hawk).
Every single one of these stories holds a kernel of truth about the ultimate ending of New Girl. Some details are small, like Winston dressing as a police officer, in full uniform, at the episode’s central Halloween festival to impress Shelby. At this point in New Girl, Winston is still working as the assistant to a toxic sports radio host. Winston is relatively content in the position and won’t quit his job for more than a season (or 29 whole episodes). Winston only joins the police force at the very end of season 3, when “Halloween” is barely even a speck in the narrative rearview mirror. He will stay with this career for the remainder of the series and eventually get a spouse through it.
Other plot points, however, define New Girl’s two most important romances. During an early “Halloween” scene, Schmidt, fully costumed as young, sexy Abraham Lincoln (“Statistically speaking, every American thinks about Abraham Lincoln at least once a day”), hops onto a carousel horse Cece is already riding. Cece is dressed as a angel, but Robby sees something different. “The two of you together on that horse, you kinda look like a bride and a groom,” he says to his own girlfriend. Cece is infuriated by the insinuation. Schmidt is overjoyed.
Two seasons later, Schmidt would serve Cece one of the best proposals on television. Three seasons later they would get married. Even Cece’s can’t-help-but-grin smile at Schmidt late in “Halloween,” when he rips off his Lincoln costume to reveal a “Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike” plan B style, is a harbinger of her infamous horny stare at Schmidt in season 3 finale “Cruise.” You know, the one captured by a Latin American newspaper following the gang’s days-long entrapment in a cruise ship suite.
“Halloween’s” final seer-like tidbit brings us back to Nick’s fear of haunted houses. Hypothetically, Nick should brave the episode’s haunted house — which is a metaphor for relationships — for Amelia, the woman has liked for over a decade. He doesn’t. Nick goes in the haunted house for Jess, to warn her that Dr. Sam doesn’t actually want a relationship with her. Nick is only willing to run head first into what scares his most for Jess. Because Nick and Jess are Nick and Jess, Nick’s plan goes horribly awry, but we officially know where his feelings lie.
By the series finale, Nick is destined to go all-in on the haunted house that is a long-term relationship by marrying Jess. That’s why, despite all the hijinks and side characters of “Halloween,” the episode ends with Nick and Jess… and one of them getting punched in the face. I told you, Nick and Jess are always going to be Nick and Jess.